Vancouver is one of Canada’s most densely populated and ethnically diverse cities. It’s also home to a thriving, star-studded bhangra music and dance scene — the “Crown Prince of Bhangra” got the nickname Jazzy B as a boy playing ice hockey there.
The half-hour documentary Bhangra City explores this burgeoning scene with its writer and co-producer Tarun Nayar of Delhi 2 Dublin, a decade-old world music band that got its start in the city and performs music that mashes up genres, including bhangra, Punjabi and English vocals, Celtic, funk, and reggae. On Facebook, the band announced the film’s world premiere on June 12 in Vancouver and shared a message about it:
A year in the making, this film takes us deep into the underground of Vancouver’s Punjabi music scene. We hang with superstars, dig through history, and crash a wedding (!). All to tell the story of the scene that helped create us – a scene that most people don’t even know is happening. We hope this film changes that.
Bhangra City also looks at factors that keep bhangra relatively unknown and out of gigs at clubs and festivals. In an interview with the Vancouver Courier, Nayar seems to contrast the lively, and for DJs profitable, wedding scene in Metro Vancouver’s Surrey, with the apparent inability to get booked at live music venues.
The Indian wedding scene in Surrey in particular is like a subculture unto itself, where DJs can pocket huge dough for an evening set performed in front of upwards of 2,000 revellers.
“We’re talking confetti cannons, lasers and massive robots — it’s like a crazy mix of Burning Man meets butter chicken,” Nayar said.
Despite that demand south of the Fraser, those same people seemingly can’t get a gig in Vancouver clubs on any given weekend. Nayar said the same level of discrimination plays out at live music venues, in corporate board rooms and on the festival circuit, despite the estimated 300,000 Indo-Canadians who live in Metro Vancouver.
The doc film also features some of the outstanding South Asian Canadian artists and groups affiliated with Vancouver, including Harj Nagra, Horsepowar, Pammi Bai, DJ Khanvict, Decibel Entertainment, Mo Dhaliwal, VanCity Bhangra, Royal Academy Of Bhangra, and an interview in India with “Crown Prince” Jazzy B himself.
Have a look at the trailer below, in which Nayar explains why “Some people call it Vancouver. We call it Bhangra City.”:
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